Giants' most recent simulated game sees umpires change up, wear masks

Giants' most recent simulated game sees umpires change up, wear masks

Just before the start of Tuesday's simulated game at Oracle Park, Giants manager Gabe Kapler jogged out to the edge of the infield to have a conversation with Bill Miller, one of the two umpires calling the action. As Kapler approached, Miller reached into his pocket and grabbed a blue medical mask that he put on for the short conversation. 

That was a change of pace from what some teams have seen from umpires thus far, and a few innings into the game, Miller and Doug Eddings took it a step further. Kapler brought them the masks that coaches and players have been wearing around camp for two weeks and both wore them the rest of the afternoon, with Eddings calling balls and strikes with a face covering underneath his protective equipment. 

This is a move teams have been hoping to see once the season starts. Kapler said he was happy that both veteran umpires were agreeable to trying it out as they got their reps in.

"Bill and Doug, I give them a ton of credit because they're super humble and open, and so our training staff had a few extra very, very comfortable masks and those guys did a great job," Kapler said. "They were open to giving these masks a try and I think everybody on the field was proud of that."

The Giants brought in umpires this week to help them prepare for regular season games, and it was noticeable a day earlier when neither umpire wore masks, despite the fact that they get closer to the players than most others involved with games. There has been some concern within the game about home plate umpires leaning right behind catchers and breathing onto them for nine innings, although The Athletic reported Wednesday that MLB is planning to have home plate umpires wear shields underneath the masks they already wear as protection against foul balls. 

[RELATED: Kapler names Cueto as Giants' Opening Day starter again]

The MLB policy is the same for players and umpires. Wearing masks is at their discretion. Wilmer Flores wore a mask when playing first base Tuesday and most Giants wear them during drills and in the dugout. Kapler and his coaches wear face coverings at just about all times. 

"Our training staff does a tremendous job of asking our group to adhere to health and safety protocols," Kapler said. "Our players are doing a really good job of masking up. Some guys are wearing masks on the field as they're playing and we really appreciate that leadership."

Dereck Rodriguez impressed by top Giants prospects at alternate site

Dereck Rodriguez impressed by top Giants prospects at alternate site

There wasn't a player at the Giants' alternate site in Sacramento who had a better feel for high-upside talent than Dereck Rodriguez. He's the son of a Hall-of-Fame catcher and grew up in big league clubhouses. 

Rodriguez, then, was the perfect person to ask about the top prospects who are spending their summer getting reps against more experienced pitchers like him and Trevor Cahill, both of whom were called up Wednesday. He gave a glowing scouting report, too. 

"(Joey) Bart is unbelievable. Bart, he's a big league player if I could say it. He's awesome to throw to," Rodriguez said. "He's awesome calling games, and he looks like a veteran at the plate

"Heliot Ramos, that dude has some pop like no other, and Luciano, for how young he is, he is really disciplined at the plate. He takes some pitches that are tough. Him and Ramos were tough at-bats down there. I don't think I got Ramos out once, and Luciano, man, Luciano was good. He was battling. He would walk here and there. I would have to throw him pitches and he would sit on them. Usually younger guys -- 2-0, 3-0 counts are usually fastball counts -- but to him you have to treat him pretty much like a veteran. He makes good adjustments, it's pretty cool. He's a big boy, man, he can hit."

Bart, Ramos and Luciano are the organization's top three prospects, and are among the 30 or so players working out in Sacramento every day. When the minor league season was canceled, the Giants brought most of their top prospects to Northern California, hopeful that they could accelerate their development with daily reps against guys like Rodriguez, a breakout star in 2018 who has seen an uptick in velocity and is back in the big league mix after a down 2019. 

Luciano hasn't even played Low-A ball yet, so this summer is all about learning. But Bart should debut at some point this year, and Rodriguez said he didn't think Ramos would be overmatched. Like Bart, Ramos reached Double-A last season, and as an outfielder he could have an easier adjustment to the big league level. 

"He's a great runner, he reads the ball well off the bat, he has a really good arm, and he sees spin really well. He's a good, disciplined hitter up there," Rodriguez said. "In my opinion I think he could be up here at any moment. And Bart, everybody loves Bart. I think a lot of the guys up here (in the big leagues), a lot of the pitchers that threw to Joey in camp were really impressed and are excited honestly. 

"We're really excited to try to get him up here at some point, either by the end of the year or next year.  It's going to be a lot of fun seeing him up here and throwing to him."

Zack Greinke calls pitch out loud, reaches new level of Giants ownage

Zack Greinke calls pitch out loud, reaches new level of Giants ownage

Zack Greinke was so good Wednesday night that the Giants couldn't make contact when he told them what pitches were coming.

No, seriously.

Greinke signaled his pitch to Astros catcher MartÍn Maldonaldo in the top of the seventh inning of Houston's 5-1 win ... with runners on first and second, nobody out and Giants shortstop Mauricio Dubon stood in the batter's box.

Dubon then flew out to center on the pitch Greinke called.

“Today, there was a man on second base and it got all messed up and it took longer than I was hoping it would take,” Greinke told reporters on a video conference call (H/T's Brian McTaggart). “It’s 50 percent my fault and 50 percent Maldy’s fault. ... I don’t like taking a long time with a man on second base especially. I’m trying to find a way to speed that up. So far this year, it's been good. It got messed up today.”

[RELATED: Slater, Solano injuries expose Giants' offensive weakness in loss]

Greinke wasn't just showing off, but he had every right to with Wednesday's performance. The longtime thorn in the Giants' side struck out seven and allowed just one earned run 6 1/3 innings of work. Greinke picked up his first win of the season, improving to 14-3 in his career against the Giants and lowering his all-time ERA versus San Francisco to just 2.18. The 36-year-old has now won more games against the Giants than all but one other team.

Ownage is ownage, but signaling your own pitches ownage? That's something else entirely.